Genesis 1:27, ‘God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.’
Genesis 2:7, ‘Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’
These 2 verses in Genesis 1 & 2 present us with a bit of a paradox in that God created human beings in His own image and then describes how He created them from the dirt on the ground…we’re frail carbon based life here on planet earth, and yet in our frailty we reflect the glory of God almighty. Though we are but dust we carry the image and likeness of God. How can we be mere dust and yet reflect the image and likeness of God…it’s a paradox!
Adam was the first man and some Bible dictionaries say his name means ‘red’ but more indepth study reveals that the name Adam means ‘acre man’ which is a man who produces agricultural crops. Interestingly, the Hebrew word adamah is the Hebrew word of “ground” and Adam was created from the adamah and his task was to work the adamah and when he died his physical body was returned to the adamah. Adam was the very first ‘earthling’ and yet there was nothing ordinary about him because when God formed Adam from the adamah, He then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a ‘living being’. This act by God Himself breathing His breath into Adam set him apart from the rest of His creation.
An 18th century rabbi said, “A person should always carry two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one it should be written ‘The world was created for my sake,’ and on the other it should say ‘I am but dust and ashes.’” [i] On days when we feel discouraged and worthless, we should read the first note. On days when we’re consumed with pride and our own self-importance, we should read the other note.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book called ‘The Weight Of Glory’ and in it he stresses the point that by understanding the eternal significance of every person we meet, it should alter the way we treat them. [ii]
Every person has the possibility of becoming someone of great renown; a politician, an artist, a musician, an author, a spokesman, an inventor; and along with that ‘great renown’ comes the possibility that other human beings could treat them as being more than human, like little gods or goddesses, deified and given adulation and worship. This is not a far-fetched statement because we see this happening all around us all the time.
Consider the adoration and worship of musicians and politicians like Obama or the way the German people revered Hitler and even the way royalty has been revered throughout millennia; artists, sports men and women, authors who are treated as though they’re the messiah and have all the answers for humanity’s woes. And yet…these same human gods and goddesses can fall from favour in the blink of an eye and can become despised, ostracised and ridiculed and the video’s of it will go globally viral in a matter of hours.
We live in a day and age that is positively obsessed with ‘self’ and ‘self’ permeates our entire lives, consider these very common terms.
self-awareness self-assurance self-belief self-confidence
self-conscious self-made self-pity self-love
self-worth self-reliance self-respect self-esteem
self-seeking self-sufficient self-importance self-improvement
self-talk self-indulgent self-discipline self-denial
The problem we have in our society is that we elevate humanity so much that we deify man falsely making humanity far more than we really are; in effect making ourselves the centre of the universe but in so doing, we humanise God bringing Him down to our human level.
How many times have we heard someone say that the reason God created us was because He was lonely? God…the Creator of the universe, the First Person of the Godhead, who was, always has and always will be in perfect union and fellowship with the God the Son and God the Holy Spirit was lonely and the only way He could overcome that loneliness was to create people??? Really?
That is absolutely not taught anywhere in Scripture and it’s not even inferred anywhere in Scripture. God doesn’t need human beings to overcome loneliness and He doesn’t need us for Him to be complete…He is ALL sufficient and complete and is in perfect fellowship and harmony within the Godhead. He created us for His glory and for our benefit…not for His benefit.
Isaiah 43:7, ‘Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
Man was created in God’s image so that we would stand out from the rest of His creation allowing us to have fellowship with Him, again for our benefit, however our form comes from Him, our living soul comes from Him, our creativity comes from Him, our intelligence comes from Him, not from within or by our own selves and therefore, we must always remember that we are but dust. The incredible nature of each human being however, is a direct result of Him.
Keeping our perception of ourselves in balance and in accordance with God’s Word is incredibly important. Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation; listen to what David says in Psalm 139.
Psalm 139:1-18, ‘O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinise my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night.” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.’
The object of absolute focus and awe of the psalmist in Psalm 139 is God…in fact, the psalmist expresses just how overwhelmed he is at how powerful and amazing God is when he says that the knowledge and intimate understanding that God has of him no matter where he is or what he’s doing is “too wonderful for me; it’s too high and I cannot attain to it.”
The most striking thing that the psalmist expresses is great humility because he realises that while God is intimately aware of him as an individual – which is wonderful and marvelous and beyond comprehension – he realises how unbelievably small he is in comparison to His Maker.
Back to our self-driven society.
Because we’re so self-focused and self-obsessed we elevate ourselves to the point where man has deified himself. On the flip-side, we have made God so casual, so approachable, so friendly and so indulgent that we’ve pulled Him down to our level and humanised Him. So man has deified himself and humanised God making the gap so small that there’s not that much difference. This is very dangerous and totally anti-Biblical.
Isaiah 55:8-9, ‘”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”‘
In truth, the gap between God and His human creation is so wide it’s beyond measure.
Because we’ve elevated ourselves so much, we’re experiencing an very peculiar phenomenon in that the more our society drives home the importance of ‘self’, the more dissatisfied we are and the more personal crisis’ our society experiences. People are more unhappy and dissatisfied with who they are than ever before.
Men wanting to be women, women wanting to be men, white people wanting to be black and black people wanting to be white, tall people wanting to be short and short people wanting to be tall. Rich people wanting more and poor people wanting what the rich have. There are people who are now associating themselves as being dragons, dogs, cats and wolves and still others are marrying their pets and some people have even been known to marry buildings, walls and bridges and that’s not a joke!
The more man elevates himself the further he falls. Elevating self isn’t working! The struggle really comes from knowing or understanding our worth, we all want to be valuable to someone for something, we strive for worth and value through competition, pride, and tearing others down but this doesn’t prove worth and value, it in fact proves the opposite.
Conversely, we might think that humility is about seeing ourselves as useless, untalented, and insignificant. That’s not humility, it’s false humility. What constitute’s true humility?
Proverbs 15:33, ‘The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honour comes humility.’
Proverbs 18:12, ‘Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honour.’
The Bible’s view of humility isn’t one of self-actualisation, self-esteem, self-promotion and self-satisfaction, rather the Bible’s view of humility is inseparably entwined with healthy, reverential fear of God and the destruction of a heart full of haughty pride. Humility then is about self-denial, self-discipline and self-critique.
This seems to fly in the face of pop-psychology that has invaded and permeates our culture so thoroughly. It’s very true that there are a lot of people dealing with a lot of issues, there are a great many people experiencing extreme emotional and this is usually the result of behaviours either of the individual or other individuals in their lives. Things they’ve done themselves or things done to them by others and the pain is real.
However, because all of humanity is broken and in pain as a result of sin, we’re all in exactly the same predicament. It’s not a new predicament, it’s an ancient one and we don’t need self-esteem and self-confidence, we need to understand that we are but dust, clay vessels that are in fact broken, who need forgiveness and restoration from the Master Potter who formed and created us in the first place.
Understand that our greatest need is for forgiveness and restoration – just like every other cracked, broken clay human pot reveals just how valued we are to our Maker.
First, He created us and the fact that He created us in the first place proves that He wants us to be part of Him.
Second, before He created us He knew that we would sin and become broken and cracked and damaged so He set His plan of redemption in motion and went ahead and created us. Why? Because He loves and values His creation.
Third, His plan of redemption required that God would take on human form, becoming one of us, in order to die in our place for our sin so that we could be healed, restored and become His children.
Fourth, understanding the extreme depth of God’s love, compassion and commitment to save cracked, broken clay humanity should result in our exaltation of His goodness and grace, and our own grateful humility. Grateful that God would go to such extreme lengths to rescue us and humility because we know all too well just how broken, cracked and weak we really are – He rescued damaged goods!
Back to the paradox.
Yes, we are but dust; physical human creations with bodies that are marvelous and wondrously created, but clay vessels that have been cracked and broken by sin and the consequences of sin, but our great value and worth doesn’t come from us but from that fact that we have been created in the image and likeness of God Himself – we’re not divine, we’re reflecting the divine One who created, rescued and restored us. Both the saint and sinner reflect the image and likeness of God and that’s where the value of humanity lies.
The Jewish community have been ridiculed since their community began because of their distinctiveness not only in how they dress but in their cultural and religious traditions. Some of their traditions needed to be criticised because they were violating the Word of God and Yeshua called the religious leaders out about them, but not all their traditions are bad or contravene Scripture. (Matt 15) But not all Jewish traditions are bad.
One of the distinct things about Judaism is it’s literal understand of God’s Word; for example when God commanded His people to be diligent in teaching and obeying His commands, He said they were to study and teach them both day and night and to bind them on their hand and before their eyes and to put them on their doorposts and their gates. (Deut 6:7-9)
To this day, religious Jews are committed to studying and teaching Torah day and night, even while they’re working or spending time with their family and friends, just going about their daily lives…no matter what they’re doing, they make the Word of God the ever-present action in all they do. Orthodox and religious Jews wear phylacteries containing the Word of God on their forehead and on the inside of their left arm in order to be obedient to God’s command and they also place the Word of God on the doors of them homes and some even on the gates of their properties. Why? Because God commanded them to keep His Word before their eyes all the time so they wouldn’t forget it.
Wearing the Tsit-Tsit (tassels) on their clothing is quite a humbling thing because in other nations of the world, this distinct markers make them a target for aggression and persecution. Another thing they often wear is a kippah, the small disc-like piece of cloth on their heads, and it also makes them a target, especially if they live anywhere but in Israel.
The kippah is not mandated in the Bible, but traditionally it began with a particularly pious rabbi who began wearing it as a mark of humility. When a man prays to God he covers his head in a show of humility because as a sinful, fallen man he cannot stand upright and uncovered before God, but when a man finishes praying, his prayer shawl (tallit) is folded carefully and put away and he goes about his daily work. This particular rabbi believed that no matter where he was, God was there because God is omnipresent, so he began wearing the small kippah to ensure he expressed humility in God’s presence no matter where he was or what he was doing.
Value and Worth
Our value and worth should be expressed through genuine humility and our example of godly humility can be seen in the life of Yeshua, he exemplified humility and we are called to imitate Him.
Philippians 2:3-11, ‘Don’t do anything from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; don’t merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Yeshua Messiah, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
[i] Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Peshischa, contrasting Mishnah,Sanhedrin 4:5 and Genesis 18:27.
[ii] C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 45-46.